Fans need to understand the difficulty of scoring against ultra defensive sides

Arsenal failed to get a goal in the London derby against West Ham United but scoring against a team who play 10 men behind the ball would be a difficult proposition for most clubs.

Tactical View

The criticism leveled at Arsene Wenger after the game was and is still thoroughly unjust. West Ham showed no real imagination and even though coach Steve Clarke claimed they were disappointed not to make more than their two chances they were more than happy with the goalless draw. Wenger is trying to create a total footballing side playing in an almost harmonic manner but it’s fruition is set to take more time as Hleb and Flamini departed the club in the summer.

Admittedly Arsenal were missing in two key positions against the Hammers; central midfield (Cesc Fabregas) and right midfield (Rosicky/Walcott). However as players played in the position the fans wanted before the game you could argue everyone was wrong though some will argue it was further reason to strengthen.

Denilson took the creative reigns in the second half but couldn’t create any real chances while Eboue, Nasri and Bendtner all played on the right at some point. The importance of Fabregas is highlighted by the chances he has created for this season.

Chances created by Arsenal Players

  • Cesc Fabregas: 50
  • Robin Van Persie: 40
  • Emmanuel Adebayor: 35
  • Denilson: 34
  • Samir Nasri: 33

Hopefully this can be the making of Denilson. With confidence and experience he will become more expansive in his passing and demanding of the ball. The between-the-line players are becoming more important in the modern game as one can see of the influence of De Rossi, Alonso and Carrick on recent weeks. The channel in between midfield and attack needs better exploitation however where one can link up play and create chances. Diaby was also strong and made 12 successful tackles and three interceptions.

Also missing was the movement to drag defenders out of their positions and away from their game plan though it is harder if the team gives no space. As mentioned Hleb was an integral part of the team last season and his fluidity, flexibility and interchangeability underrated. He would crop up at every part of the pitch to support and link up play. The graphic below displays Denilson’s passes against West Ham where more risks should have been taken and requiring players in and around the box. The graphic of Hleb is against Manchester United. (Not a direct comparison)


Eboue looked to make good movement and as he came inside and dragged defenders with him where in theory, the space should have been utilised by another member. Referring back to last season, Cesc Fabregas made those late runs into the box and in the process scored plenty of goals early last season. Barcelona carry out this tactic, Pep Guardiola calling the player a ‘llegada’ (arrival).

Manchester United have also found it difficult in recent games as their last ten matches has seen seven 1-0 wins.

(I’ll write an article on the imminent transfer of Arshavin when the dust settles and after the bloggers write identikit posts on the player at the same time.)


6 thoughts on “Fans need to understand the difficulty of scoring against ultra defensive sides

  1. The English game has become very boring to me when a lower level side plays a top 4-5 team with the lower level team creating a bunker in and around the 18. Yes it’s good tactical football by the manager as it keeps the game close and gives his team a chance to get a surprise goal, but it is dreadfully boring to watch. The Spanish and Italian games are much more exciting to me these days as they are more open (like the Champ League games we’ve had) with more space and creativity allowed to be displayed. Arsenal has resorted to trying to cross the against a bunkered defense with two or three defenders at a minimum around each of the targets. That will not work if that is our only strategy (esp when we can’t cross the ball worth a darn) as the target players are stationary and can’t get as much elevation on their jump or power on their headers vs when the cross comes from a fast break or counter attack and they are running into the ball heading it with some force. We really need to be more creative about attacking and getting to the end line and crossing to people charging into the goal area. We have very few that can break a defender down on the dribble (Nasri being the only one right now and maybe RVP) that can create for others and himself when the defense is packed back.

  2. I think criticism is still warranted. Barring Nasri, all the midfield and forward line have had plenty of time under Wenger and the coaching staff to learn how to break down packed defences. The fact that they often can’t do it is therefore a coaching failure.

    Fans often think that tactics end with team selection: but what’s more relevant is how those players are trained to play. The fact is that over the last couple of games Arsenal have had no idea how to draw out a defence, no idea how to change the tempo, no idea how to add some unpredictability to their play. These are all things that you have to do as a team, not as individuals, and therefore require coaching from a tactically-minded manager. Wenger is not tactically-minded. This is his weakness and, in a tight and defensive season like this, managers like Ferg and Rafa will succeed where he fails.

    I’m still delighted that Wenger is and will always be ours – but a little frustration now and then is worth venting.

  3. as it stands arshavin hasn’t signed yet and my friend who isn’t an arsenal fan suggested we needed more problems. i promptly told him that we are unbeaten in 10 games although everton nearly ended it at 8.

    I think what we are missing is also a player who goes into an opponents box out of sheer will..Utd have Tevez or Rooney, Liverpool have Gerrard and Chelsea have Lampard to a lesser extent. What i want to see sometimes is a fire in the belly of a player. Van Persie is the only player that has demonstrated this and a couple of times I have seen Denilson do this..the goal he scored at villa is a case in point. It is not much making a run as you suggested with Cesc but more so a direct determination to achieve an outcome at all costs.

    Yes Utd have won a lot of games 1-0 and that is all you need really, it is worth noting that Liverpool and Chelsea have also struggled at home against lesser teams and credit has to be given to West Ham for their defensive “performance” as they got draws at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.

  4. I so have to read these blog more often. For some reason I’m only stopping by every three or four days.

    That passing graphic is just well done.

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